Thompson Rivers University is revamping its bachelor and masters programs in business, despite success in attracting students.
Russell Currie, TRU's new dean of business and economics, spoke this week to a meeting of Kamloops Rotary Club. He outlined the state of one of the university's most successful schools and plans to remake programs in the face of competition.
"Business programs at TRU are a bit of a sleeper," Currie acknowledged.
Despite that low profile, the school has graduated 4,500 students during the past five years, along with another 1,300 studying offshore and 2,100 in online programs.
Those 8,000 graduates completed programs ranging from certificates to MBA degrees. Specialties within the school include accounting, management, finance and marketing.
A large part of the school's success can be attributed to TRU World, the fastest growing student enrolment at the university. The No. 1 destination of choice for foreign students at TRU is in the school of business and economics.
Currie, who recently came to Kamloops from UBC Okanagan, said big attractions for the program here are campus beauty and the ability for students to encompass open learning. It is also a 12-month program compared to traditional two-year programs at other schools.
As part of the remake of its programs, the school will encourage more "hybrid" learning so students move among China, Kamloops and online programs en route to degrees.
Another advantage here is lower costs for students compared to many other programs.
"Our tuition is half of what UBC, Royal Roads and Athabasca charge," Currie said.
Tuition for an MBA here costs roughly $12,000. Currie contrasted that with a new MBA offering at the University of Calgary. The degree, with a sub-specialty in the oil sector, costs roughly $120,000 for one year, including stints in Dubai and Texas.
With the university constantly looking for new sources of revenue, Currie acknowledged it is looking at increasing rates for its MBA program. TRU is capped under law at the rate of inflation for undergraduate programs.
"We've had that discussion," he said of tuition increases for the MBA program.
But Currie said one of the university's goals promotes access to education.
"Access isn't just grades; it's who can afford it. We want children growing up in Kamloops to be able to afford an MBA."
TRU is in the early stages of planning specialties of its own, including law and health care. The new faculty of law on campus also brings with it opportunity for a dual-degree program aimed at the corporate sector.
"Two to three years down the road, you'll see specialties."
The university is now rewriting the curriculum for its revamped MBA program, which it hopes to offer starting in September next year. It has asked elite business schools in this country to help develop it.
Currie said while demand is high and opportunities abound, one of the school's biggest challenges is raising its profile.
"Across Canada and the United States, people really don't know us."
That can lead to difficulty recruiting faculty, he added.